I don’t worry about it, too be honest. I basically try to avoid too much stuff below 50-60 Hz because in an untreated room it there’s no way to judge how it balances out the rest of the mix. Probably I should cut even higher, but I do like some stuff there…
While I left dance music a long time ago, I do remember that a lot of the Chicago acid (Armando, Larry Heard etc.) as well as (at the time) contemporary revivalists like Jamal Moss didn’t really have so much bass, it was about polyrhythms and groove and intensity and for the most part blowing minds! Obviously much of that had more critical than commercial success. Then again, other legit stuff like Kerri Chandler or Dennis Ferrer (again, I’m only showing that it’s been over 10 years since I was seriously concerned about this) was very well engineered from the get go, and benefitted from it.
In general, bass collisions seem to be symptomatic of general arrangement issues (too many tracks) which may or may not be actual issues, given the immense set of cultural assumptions we rightly bring to the process (because it takes time… one can’t just snap your fingers and place oneself above the fray)
The fact there are even “problems” with bass though, and that almost everyone acknowledges and experiences them, raises questions about what our medium actually is. Recording always aims at some ideal, which is to say it conjures some virtual, fictional space that may or may not map onto how recordings are actually experienced, but that nonetheless has the force of a paradigm. For a number of years after the invention of the camera, it wasn’t really until the 1920’s that photography was liberated to be its own medium, before it found both artistic and commercial success by imitating aspects of painting (pictorialism etc.) This purism lasted for a while then all the assumptions were questioned again.
With respect to recording, I see the same relation as with painting and photography in that all of the “mix tricks” that developed from the 1960s on were designed to take live performances, which had 6-7 or more instruments easily separated through spatial cues, and replicate the experience in stereo (or mono, in the early days). The problem becomes, how do we take something played on two speakers, and replicate the experience that one would have had if it had been performed live? In other words, like replicating painting through photography, which is not meant derisively, it may just be where we are, the persistence of a paradigm. In part this question really goes to the spaces in which music is experienced – is it for the club, is it for some kind of social listening experience, or is it mostly listening alone on wireless headphones? Not the most common experience, but again, it’s the ideal which is in question. [Now, the Eno “studio as an instrument” sense, that has become for most of us like breathing… but that’s about production itself, not how we envision or interpret what we’ve done as to format.]
I think at minimum, as musicians, we hope that our music as production, as “thing” should occasion some kind of gathering [a ‘thing’ in its original (Germanic) etymological sense as ‘assembly’ or ‘gathering’; not in its modern sense as ‘object’ or ‘commodity’]. Or in other words, what is the ultimate focus? With focus there’s also the (Latin) etymological sense, as domestic hearth – as again something that gathers, so there’s no escaping the question.
Live performances or club play obviously attests to some sort of gathering, and both benefit from spatial and visual cues not readily available in the listening-on-two-earphones mode. Mix tricks thus enable the gathering to be experienced vicariously, but still in some sense experienced. Indeed, when one is listening by other means there is at least some reference, some implicit harking back to the sense of gathering, even if one experiences it only vicariously.
I wonder though, are there other ways beyond live, physical dissemination, that music can occasion a gathering? (And what, exactly is gathered? It’s not just about people perhaps! Not that this is always the goal, but what exactly is it in a religious or ecstatic experience that is gathered?)
What about through forums such as this, as we discuss music largely experienced digitally, in formats conceived only in their role as content, but in ways that subvert its status as content? Is that a gathering, and is it occasioned by music?
What about gathering through Youtube channels, in which the aesthetics surrounding the production, and the life of the artist are in some ways as important as music?
There is the bare and sad fact that most of the music I enjoy these days simply will never be played in a club or performed live, OR form the basis for a Youtube ‘gathering’ – but it definitely circulates, it influences what I do, I discuss and share it.
But does it gather?
I’m not sure I have an answer here, or what that means for the situation I’m really trying to target. I guess I’m still trying to work all of this out (what a release actually is).